The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Franz Von Papen

(Part 12 of 15)

[Page 939]


(1) Von Papen accepted appointment a envoy at Vienna knowing he would "front" for a Nazi fifth column in Austria. In July 1934, the Austrian policy of the Nazi government of Germany was in bad odor throughout the civilized world. The historical record of this period was written in the newspaper headlines of the day. A period of Nazi pressure and terror culminated on 25 July 1934 in an attempted revolutionary putsch, the murder of the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss, in which the German Minister, Reith, was implicated. (See Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.) The situation was such as to call for removal of the German Minister, Reith, and for the prompt substitution of a man who was an enthusiast for Anschluss with Germany, who could be tolerant of Nazi objectives and methods, but who could lend an aura of respectability to official German representation in Vienna. Hitler's reaction was immediate. He chose von Papen as quickly as he heard the news of the Dollfuss murder. Writing of this event in 1945 after his arrest by Allied authorities, von Papen dramatically describes the Fuehrer's response to the situation (monograph on "Austria" referred to above):

"Suddenly, at three o'clock in the morning, there was a loud ringing of my doorbell. SS men demanded admission. My son and I were of the opinion that I-was going to be imprisoned. We went to the front door armed with pistols. Our suspicions were unfounded. The SS men declared that they had come from the Chancellery with the order to put through a telephone connection between Hitler and myself. "Hitler was in Bayreuth and had been trying for hours without success to get in touch with me. The connection was made.

"Hitler started, 'You know of course what has happened in Vienna. You must go there immediately and try to set things in order.'

"I replied, 'I have no idea what has happened in Vienna. I have just returned from the country and I don't understand what you want with me in Vienna. I am in the act of packing my trunk to leave Berlin once and for all.'

"Hitler, highly excited, gave thereupon a short description

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of the dramatic events in Vienna which led to the murder of Dollfuss, and continued, 'You are the only person who can save the situation. I implore you to carry out my request.'"

As a result of this telephone call, von Papen flew immediately to join Hitler at Bayreuth. There it was clear that the Nazi leadership feared international repercussions from their Austrian policy and felt themselves in dire need of a respectable "front" man. Von Papen has described this meeting:

"There I found Hitler and his entire entourage, excited as an ant-hill. It was difficult to get anything approaching an exact picture of the Vienna 'Putsch' and the role of Hitler's promoters. Even if one had come into this gathering in complete ignorance of the different circumstances involved, one could have gathered with one look that they had a very bad conscience and now were fearing the consequences. From the very first moment I was certain that the immoderate policy of the Austrian NSDAP under the leadership of Hitler's condottiere, Habig, had led to this coup d'etat.

"This was, then, a few days after the 30 June, the second bloody excess of the Party which had promised to bring Germany by peaceful means to social tranquility, welfare, and respect. It was obvious that both events had made a deep impression on the entire world, and that the governmental methods of the Party must damage most seriously the political credit of the Reich"

At this meeting it was Papen himself who drafted the letter of appointment. This letter was a masterpiece of deceit, calculated to conceal completely Hitler and Papen's goal of annexation. It stated:

"As a result of the events in Vienna I am compelled to suggest to the Reichs-President the removal of the German Minister to Vienna, Dr. Reith, from his post, because he, at the suggestion of Austrian Federal Ministers and the Austrian rebels respectively consented to an agreement made by both these parties concerning the safe conduct and retreat of the rebels to Germany without making inquiry of the German Reich Government. Thus the Minister has dragged the German Reich into an internal Austrian affair without any reason.

"The assassination of the Austrian Federal Chancellor which was strictly condemned and regretted by the German Government has made the situation in Europe, already fluid, more acute, without any fault of ours. Therefore, it is my desire to bring about if possible an easing of the general

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situation, and especially to direct the relations with the German Austrian State, which have been so strained for a long time, again into normal and friendly channels.

"For this reason, I request you, dear Mr. von Papen, to take over this important task, just because you have possessed and continue to possess my most complete and unlimited confidence ever since we have worked together in the Cabinet.

"Therefore, I have suggested to the Reichs-President that you, upon leaving the Reich-Cabinet and upon release from the office of Commissioner for the Saar, be called on special mission to the post of the German Minister in Vienna for a limited period of time. In this position you will be directly subordinated to me.

"Thanking once more for all that you have at a time done for the coordination of the Government of the National Revolution and since then together with us for Germany, I remain." (2799-PS).

The actual mission of von Papen was stated more frankly, shortly after his arrival in Vienna, in the course of a private conversation with the American Minister, George S. Messersmith. Mr. Messersmith has described this meeting:

"When I did call on von Papen in the German Legation, he greeted me with 'Now you are in my Legation and I can control the conversation'. In the baldest and most cynical manner he then proceeded to tell me that all of Southeastern Europe, to the borders of Turkey, was Germany's natural hinterland, and that he had been charged with the mission of facilitating German economic and political control over all this region for Germany. He blandly and directly said that getting control of Austria was to be the first step. He definitely stated that he was in Austria to undermine and weaken the Austrian Government and from Vienna to work towards the weakening of the Governments in the other states to the South and South East. He said that he intended to use his reputation as a good Catholic to gain influence with certain Austrians, such as Cardinal Innitzer, towards that end. He said that he was telling me this because the German Government was bound on this objective of getting this control of Southeastern Europe and there was nothing which could stop it and that our own policy and that of France and England was not realistic.

"The circumstances were such, as I was calling on him in the German Legation, that I had to listen to what he had to

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say and of course I was prepared to hear what he had to say although I already knew what his instructions were. I was nevertheless shocked to have him speak so baldly to me and when he finished I got up and told him how shocked I was to hear the accredited representative of a supposedly friendly state to Austria admit that he was proposing to engage in activities to undermine and destroy that Government to which he was accredited. He merely smiled and said, of course this conversation was between us and that he would, of course, not be talking to others so clearly about his objectives. I have gone into this detail with regard to this conversation as it is characteristic of the absolute frankness and directness with which high Nazi officials spoke of their objectives." (1760-PS)

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